Wild Nothing has been busy touring steadily throughout the year, but this past week was the first chance I’ve had to catch them in Columbus. The show was plenty anticipated, seeing as I’ve been drooling over their sugary space-pop sound since last year. Of course, they had to be booked at the worst venue in town, but that’s a minor quibble. My major gripe was that the show was scheduled for the same night as a certain nerdtastic movie premier, and I was afraid I’d have major personal culture clash and have to choose sides and ditch the movie, or at least be antsy about taking both the show and the movie in and not be able to enjoy either. Score one for the venue, the Basement, for starting weekday shows as advertised unlike elsewhere where things commence whenever the crowd is at its thickest. This nerd was able to squeeze plenty into the night.
At first, I was sure Jack Tatum and crew were going to be the draw of the night and the crowd would trickle in slowly in passe fashion. However, a crowd arrived early to see Twin Sister and remained the entire night. I expected nothing, having never heard them before, and was rewarded for my naivete. I suppose, it being 30-plus years since Siouxsie stamped out the archetype for the gleeful goth front girl, that there might have been at least one band that could have pulled off the mood before now. But no, Twin Sister have moved beyond homage and taken the sound and made it their own. Four stylish dudes and a frontgirl looking like Sugarcubes-era Björk conducting the band—it’s a formula that only sometimes works, but Twin Sister got it right. A flank of electronics and a soundboard all their own filtered the tones, while the drummer kept a t-shirt tight around the head and a microphone underneath. It was calculated studio wizardry effortlessly brought to the crowd in a live setting. This is no simple feat, and the club’s soundguy showed his appreciation by dancing throughout the set, barely having to touch a knob to dampen a synth freakout. These youngbloods wear their influences on their foreheads—Cocteau Twins, Sugarcubes, Siouxsie, Tom Tom Club—but they did it without imitation and made it totally their own. There was even a kid in baggys and a ball-cap unabashedly dancing like Andie Walsh from Pretty in Pink, which seemed somehow fitting.
Wild Nothing set up quick in order to catch the energy Twin Sister left buzzing about the room. Their gear was stripped down compared to the electronic phalanx of the openers. Perhaps they were a little weary from touring or the heat was getting to them, but the beginning of the set was not nearly as magnetic as the long-player sounded on the first spin. Their practical clothes and hair contrasted with the stylishness of the youngsters before them, and that comfortable vibe allowed them to slowly work into the hazy, drowning-in-emotions sound of the record. It took a few songs, but when they got to “Live in Dreams,” everyone in the venue had lost themselves and it was like 1988 all over again. Obviously feeding off the crowd’s energy, Jack and his live band picked up the pace and injected some intensity that was missing at the beginning of the set. The back-up vocals, which are not at all prominent on the recordings, beefed everything up so finally that guitar haze from the record was actualized. The ease of the band on the stage made everyone comfortable enough to tease the band after Tatum thanked the crowd for their applause. This was Wild Nothing’s last date with Twin Sister, and everyone knew it was a stacked bill that was too good to miss. It was one of those nights where the moon was almost full and you could tell something was happening.